At nearly 40 years old and with a track record with no less than 40 titles, Hossam Hassan, has become a legend of Egyptian football. Nobody forgets his goal against Algeria, which has allowed the selection of qualifying to the World Cup in Italy in 1990. Eight years later, Hossam Hassan scored seven goals during the CAN 1998 in Burkina Faso, and Egypt won the title after 12 years of famine. Reasons why thousands of supporters, in addition to the local football experts, wish to see Hossam Hassan become part of the national team that will compete for the CAN 2006. THey think that the Pharaohs could benefit from his vast experience and winning a fifth continental title, confidences of a sacred monster.
There are whispers accordinf to them your name is on the preliminary list of 40 players chosen for the CAN 2006, Is that real?
Actually, i heard that also. But I say that I have not been contacted personally. Let's wait and see the sequence of events.
What represents for you your return to national team?
For any football player, It is the honor of wearing the jersey of his country. But for me it's more than a honor ... It is a delight ... This is also a deep desire, a dream and a challenge. You know, some people doubt about my ability to still keep my place. I want to show them that they are wrong. I know I can be a plus for the selection.
What is your view on your career, even if it is not finished yet?
I started my career in 1983 at al-Ahly club, where I stayed until 1990, when I signed for Paok Saloniki (Greece). After a good year in Greece, I was asked by the Swiss club Neuchatel Xamax. I think I spent a good season in the Swiss championship. Unfortunately, I could not go beyond. Because, once again, duty called me in Cairo. The CEO of Al-Ahly Saleh Selim, asked me to return to the "Red Devils" who were crossing a zone of turbulence. Al-Ahly was my house I could not reject the request. I did not have the slightest hesitation. Finally, I stayed in the team for nine years. Years during which we have won many trophies, seven national titles, one Cup of Egypt, one African Cup of Cups. In 2000, al-Ahly lent me to the emirati club "al-Ain" for six months. But back in Cairo, I understood that the responsibles of al-Ahly did not want to renew my contract. They tried to convince me to sign for a turkish club, but I did not want to leave Egypt at this time. So when the Zamalek appeared with a tempting offer, I jumped at the chance. As usual, I did my best in the white jersey. Result : after four beautiful seasons, I had garnered nine major titles. Not bad for a player on the downhill, right? Once again, at the end of my last season, Zamalek didn't do alot to keep me. Today I set myself a new challenge with al-Masry, the club of Port-Said.
You are the footballer's dean in the world, what this title means to you?
Great satisfaction. I could wear this record much higher and make it even more inaccessible, if I had not been excluded unfairly from the selection. This record is proof of the regularity of my performance on the field. I spent 18 years (between 1985 and 2003) without any interruption in the service of national selection.
What is the secret of your longevity?
There are first aid and the will of God. Then, my passion for football, healthy living, an unwavering desire to succeed, the love of fans and a bit of talent anyway.
What do you feel about continuing to play so close to the age of 40?
Proud. Yes, I am proud to be at my top in the high-level games and especially when you are a striker claims by both clubs for wich i sign and fans who come to see me play.
What are your best memories in African competitions?
I have many. My starts with al-Ahly (at 1984) were extraordinary. We won three years in a row, the African Cup of cups, before closing the round in style, with a key success in the African Champions League. With the national team, I experienced the same joy in winning the first international competition I disputed: CAN 86. However, my best memory is the CAN 98. Apart from the title of champion of Africa, I won the title of best scorer in the Tournament (trophy shared with the South African Benni McCarthy author of 7 goals as well).
What do you think of African Football?
It has progressed significantly. Africans have always has a physical, they now have great technical qualities and a good mastery of tactics. Besides the remarkable individuality. The massive recruitment of African players by European clubs has transformed the situation. Today, the African footballer of the top level is a complete footballer.
What are the differences between football practice in Egypt and that developed in the rest of the continent?
The Egyptian player is technically very gifted. But he lacks stability and a professional environment to be even more creative. Much of the success of football depends on the role of the media. Let me explain: the media can promote the stability of the system, which gives a long-term fruit, as they may contribute to its destruction. I take an example: After our victory in CAN 98, under the leadership of al-Gohary, newspapers wrote that he is the best coach in Egypt and that the selection was the best of all time. But when we disputed the Confederations Cup, few months later (two draws and a defeat), the media arm fell to shortcuts on the selection and al-Gohary who later eventually resigned. Since then, the Egyptian football has never enjoyed stability. The other major problem of the Egyptian football is the instability of management. There is no long-term policy. Each change of leadership at the level of the football federation or club level, do a clean slate of what has already been done by the predecessors. That means that they must start all over. It's an ITOLERABLE WASTE OF TIME ! However, there's one exception: al-Ahly. In this club, boards change, but the policy remains the same. If the management of football in Egypt is based on a real strategy and not on personal relationships and troubles, I think we would be part of the great powers.
What are the chances of Egypt at the next CAN and what difference do you see with the edition that you have won in 98?
First, in 1998 the selection was made up of outstanding experienced players, who played in Europe. And then we had a great technical director. A true expert. We were well prepared for the competition. The current selection includes promising players and a good coach. But I fear the lack of experience of major competitions. This time, the CAN may be more difficult to negotiate. There will be the top 16 african selections which means the level is near. The advantage of Egypt will be the audience. The Pharaohs will be supported by 75 million fans. But it's a double-edged sword. The pressure may be on the opponent, but it can also be on our players.
What do you say to those who say you are a nervous?
Only injustice that annoys me. On the ground I am not ... People confuse nervousness with the fierce desire to win which I showe during the game.
You like to play alongside your twin brother, Ibrahim?
Ibrahin is the best right back in Egypt. I am mentally and technically having a great confidence when he is present with me on the ground. He understands me perfectly.
You never imagined to replace him on the field after a red card and vice versa?
(Big laugh). No, no, never! We are serious and honest people! We have some differences in the face and hair. And then we don't play in same position...
People do not confuse?
Of course they do, but not friends, family and colleagues.
Who is the oldest?
Ibrahim. He was born 10 minutes before me.
Who is the player that you respect and admire the most?
They are alot to earn respect. I do not want to name in order not to forget some ... Globally, I can still quote Puskas, Pele, Maradona, Marco Van Basten. In Egypt, there is Ali Abu Greisha, Zezo, al-Khatib.
You see a successor in the current Egyptian football?
Mido is a good striker. He started his career well. There is also Emad Met'eab ...
Your worst memory?
(Without hesitation) when I left al-Ahly for Zamalek, then when I had left Zamalek.
What are the moments of happiness?
Every time I win a title ... After each goal, and when I read the passion in the eyes of my fans.
After such a long career, have you any regrets?
I have at least one. I regret not having a manager that could help me make the right choices. I also regret the time I ended my career in Europe, I sacrificed myself for al-Ahly who finally disappointed me.
Would you return to Europe?
Only in a country where the championship is strong.
You always love al-Ahly?
I am a professional. I always do my best for the club for which I play.
What club would you finish your career?
My dream is to finish within al-Ahly. It would be a logical end.
And when you will decide to take your bow?
When I feel that I can not give anything to the club i play for.
You thought about your conversion?
I go into the business.
Are you generally satisfied with your long journey?
Somewhat satisfied. Nevertheless, I think I could have done even better.
DIGEST Hossam Hassan
Name: Hassan Hassan
Born on 10 August 1966 in Cairo, 1,78m 68 kg
successive clubs: Al-Ahly (1983-1990), Paok Saloniki (Greece 1990-1991), Neuchatel Xamax (Switzerland 1991-1992), al-Ahly (1992-2000), al-Ain (UAE 2000), Zamalek (2000-2004), al-Masry (2004-?)
163 selections, 63 goals: 1st match on 10 September 1985 Norway/Egypt (3/0) last match on 29 May 2004 Egypt-Gabon (2/0).
Major competitions : World Italy 1990
CAN 1986.1988, 1992, 1998, 2000, 2002.
Awards: CAN 1986.1998
All Africa Games : Gold Medal 1987
Arab Nations Cup 1992
African Champions League 1987, 2002
African Cup of Cups 1984,1985,1986,1993
African Super Cup 2002
Egyptian League 1985, 1986, 1987,1989,1994,1995,1996,1997,1998,1999,2000,2001,2003,2004
Cup of Egypt 1985,1989,1993,1996,2002
Egypt Super Cup 2001.2002
League of United Arab Emirates 2000
Afro-Asian Champions Cup 1988
Arab Champions League 1996, 2003
Arab Cup of Cups 1994
Arab elites Cup 1997, 1998
Egyptian-Saoudi Super Cup 2003
Hossam Hassan: The living legend of Helwan
Emeritus striker, recordman of international selections, legend of al-Ahly, Hossam Hassan is all at once. The footballer of legend, who has 39 years old, gets into politics.
9 January 2001: Egypt just defeated Zambia (3-1) in a friendly match in Cairo. The public, effervescence, is standing and reserving a long ovation to Hossam Hassan. At almost 35 years, the striker has entered the legend of world football. With 151 national team selections, the historical scorer of al-Ahly and the Pharaons broke at that day the record previously held by the german Lothar Matthaus. More than fifteen years after his first cape, Hossam Hassan entered permanently in the legend. Later, He will be officially appointed Dean of International footballers by Sepp Blatter. The FIFA President will travel to Cairo specially to mark the event and confirm the importance of honor for Hossam Hassan.
Before ever mark the history of world football, the striker became the Egyptian footballer the most scoring and most loved. During the CAN 1998 held in Burkina Faso, Hossam Hassan was the great architect of the victory of the Pharaohs. Throughout the competition, the stricker impressed every body with his of scoring. He will fly five times during the continental tournament, where he will be one of the best goalscorers in the company of South African Benni McCarthy. Small striker, Hossam Hassan knows how to make the defenders forget him on the lawn before surprising his opponents by unexpected goals.
For the ardent Egyptian fans, this joy didn't find the recognition it deserved : Although nomine, Hossam Hassan does not get that year the title of the African footballer of the year.
Rare and irreplaceable "
Except this disappointment, the international career of Hossam Hassan knew more high than low. From its first African Cup in 1986 till his trophy in 1998, through the World Cup in Italy (the second and final contested by the Pharaos), the striker, author of 63 goals in 163 international games, has not often lack major appointment. Mahmoud al-Gohary, "historical" selector of Pharaohs of 80's and 90's has nothing but praise about Hossam Hassan: "He is the best footballer that i trained. scorer, passeur or play maker, Hossam Hassan may be all at once, he knows everything. He is one of those players that can change the course of a game by his own. He is rare and unique! "
If Africa and the world became acquainted with Hossam Hassan thanks for major international competitions, it is every week in the Egyptian championship in Egypt, that the striker became the idol of a people, and particularly supporters of al-Ahly, the Cairo club where he wrote a total of 109 goals. Then under the banner of the great rival Zamalek, Hossam Hassan has a wide support and can claim an appreciable popularity.
Even his bad boy image, the "John McEnroe of Egyptian football", as a journalist wrote, never managed to touch this capital sympathy.
After football, politics ...
It is in the order of things that Hossam Hassan launches into politics. At the end of 2005, the football star is seeking the popular vote in Helwan, in the town where he grew up and pat on his first ball. So supporters and voters is the same fight?
"These are the inhabitants of Helouan which encourage me to participate in these elections and I believe to be able to present something positive", says simply Hossam Hassan. The battle is not won in advance. Surfing in a gained popularity in the past does not mean future electoral success. If the face is known, the program remains unclear. In electoral compain, Hossam Hassan does not start in big speeches. Rather than remaking the world, the star spoke of what he knows best : sports : He promised to "try to raise the level of sports, and especially football", by building "open sports grounds" in the city. The political destiny of Hossam Hassan will it be as successful as was his career as a footballer? Time will tell. But whatever happens in future, the Egyptians will never forget this striker who made them happy several times.
This article was written for the french magazine "Foot Africa"